The project takes place in various hill tribe villages around Chiang Rai. Chiang Rai province covers some 11,678 square kilometers with a population of 1.23 million people. The average elevation is 580 meters above sea level, Myanmar borders on the north, and Laos borders on the north and northeast. The provincial capital is 829 kilometers north of Bangkok.
Chiang Rai was founded in 1262 by King Meng Rai and was the first capital of Lanna Thai (Kingdom of a Million Rice fields). The province contains Thailand's northernmost point at Mae Sai which is well known for its crisp mountain scenery and hill tribes. North Chiang Rai falls within the region known as the Golden Triangle, the area where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos converge.
Please note: This is a remote project location and the site can only be reached via an overnight bus ride (included).
About the Project
The Akha are a hill tribe of subsistence farmers known for their artistry. The ethnic group may have originated in Mongolia around 1,500 years ago. Most of the remaining Akha people are now distributed in small villages among the mountains of China, where they are considered part of the Hani by the government, though this is a subject of some dispute among the Akha themselves; Laos, where they are considered Lao Sung; Myanmar, Burma; and northern Thailand, where they are one of the six main hill tribes.
The Akha began arriving in Thailand in the early twentieth century and continue to immigrate, with about 80,000 now living at high altitudes in Thailand's northern provinces of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. Many of these villages can be visited by tourists on trekking tours from either of these cities. They speak Akha, a language in the Loloish (Yi) branch of the Tibeto-Burman family. Akha has a very closely related language with the Lisu and Lahu peoples, as they once belonged to the Lolohunter tribe that ruled the Paoshan and Teinchung plains before the invasion of the Ming Dynasty (A.D 1644) in Yunan, China. The practice of their mythology includes ornately carved village gates made of wood where the guardian spirits are said to dwell. They have an extensive recollection of ancestors going back 15 generations that they exhibit in ritual chants.
This project provides the opportunity to volunteer for the indigenous Akha tribes of Northern Thailand. As a volunteer, you will experience and learn about their unique culture and traditions. The aim of the project is to support the Akha way of life while promoting sustainable cultural exchange between the local community and the international volunteers.
This orientation week is a great opportunity to learn about Thailand and meet other international volunteers. It offers you tours around historical areas (Ayutthaya historical park), Thai language lessons, cooking lessons, taste-testing (Thai BBQ), school visits, sightseeing (Wat Phra Phutthabat Temple (Buddha's footprint)), and so much more! This week will ease you into your volunteering experience by providing you with an better understanding of the history, culture and customs. Please note that the schedule can change at any time based on the weather conditions.
Volunteer Work and Contribution
During the project, you will work with organizations that support the Akha minority. The work is very diverse from construction to teaching to working with the villagers; it will all depend upon the needs of the community at the time and on your personal preferences! During these two weeks you will also visit local markets and help to sustain local initiatives.
This volunteer program requires cultural sensitivity, flexibility, and an open mind in order to work and interact with the Akha people.